When I was a young little lady, I had dreams of becoming many exciting things – most of which were fairly unattainable career paths, for example ‘the Yellow Power Ranger’ or Kiara from The Lion King 2. However, as a slightly older little lady, I am now taking my first tentative steps into the ‘real’ world following 20 years of full immersion in the back-to-back education system. I no longer have any idea what I want to be – even less what I am capable of being. Juliette Burton addresses this fear, and the assumption that many in society are defined by their careers in this sparklingly witty performance piece, utilising video to its full potential in relaying tales of her childhood dreams, her post-education career disillusionment and her search for a true calling in life – a vocation as opposed to a career.
A small spell was cast in that theatre. It was mesmerising to watch.
Much of the charm of this piece lies in Burton herself; she contains a bubbling energy and appears completely at ease onstage. Burton initially introduces herself to the room, gifting audience members with handshakes and asking names and careers which she expertly remembers to reference later in the piece. She pays special attention to maintaining eye contact throughout, creating an intimate and personal atmosphere within the theatre – especially effective as Burton is the lucky owner of wonderfully expressive eyes. The colloquial manner of her delivery was endearing and the audience was invested in her experience, causing a strange and beautiful poignancy when she relays her ongoing battle with eating disorders.
Her use of video in the performance was effective, almost reminiscent of childhood shows such as Blue Peter with a ‘look what I did earlier’ feel. They supported the humorous anecdotes that came as a consequence of her dogged pursuits of childhood dreams, for example the stalking of Prince Harry whilst clad in a wedding dress, or her ballet induction within a class of five-year-old girls.
Overall, When I Grow Up is an inspirational showcase of storytelling at its best, justly relying on Burton’s effervescent personality and her ability to conjure small, sentimental tears of recognition from the undeservedly tiny audience. Her build up to the climactic end, wherein she attempts to realise her dreams of being a pop star, was well-paced and delivered a soulful punch while relaying how ambitions cannot be realised without the support of your fellow dreamers. As we exited the theatre, Burton stood at the door to say farewell. A sea of smiling eyes wandered past her post, each of them thanking her for the reminder that careers don’t define a person. I also (rather embarrassingly) thanked her in earnest, telling her how she has, in a small way, changed the way I will look at the rest of my life. A small spell was cast in that theatre. It was mesmerising to watch.